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Nassau paid part-time, seasonal workers more than $26.5M amid wage freeze

A seasonal Nassau County employee spruces up the

A seasonal Nassau County employee spruces up the toll booths with paint on May 15, 2014, at the entrance to Nickerson Beach in Long Beach. Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

Nassau County paid $26.6 million last year to more than 2,000 part-time and seasonal workers, some of whom have political or community ties or hold other government jobs.

Some of the part-timers earned more than full-time employees in the same job, at a time when full-time employees' wages were frozen and jobs were cut as the county attempted to meet budget goals imposed by a financial control board.

About half of the part-time and seasonal employees were paid by the parks department, and some do work that appears unrelated to their job titles, records show.

For example, Justin Logerfo, the parks department's highest-paid part-timer, earned nearly $80,000 as a $36-an-hour part-time golf course attendant 1, a beginning level. Logerfo, whose uncle John Logerfo is a special assistant to County Executive Edward Mangano, earned nearly $26,000 more than the highest full-time golf course attendant 1. Justin Logerfo could not be reached.

Logerfo and two other part-time golf course attendant 1s -- Angela Neal, who earned $73,600, and Zahid Syed, who was paid $66,500 -- earned more than three full-time golf course managers, records show.

Neal declined to comment.

In addition to his $50-an-hour part-time job for the county, Syed works full time for the Republican-controlled Town of Hempstead as a $125,736-a-year economic development zone coordinator.

Mangano, a Republican, appointed Syed as head of the county's Human Rights Commission in 2010. Syed also founded the local chapter of the South Asian-American Political Action Committee, and he and his wife have contributed more than $26,000 to Mangano and other county Republican campaign committees since 2009. Syed could not be reached.

"It's very hard for me to understand how a part-timer could gross more than a full-time worker," said Jerry Laricchiuta, president of the Civil Service Employees Union, whose members hold the full-time golf course titles. "We'll just have to look into these cases."

"This is a political-insider feeding frenzy," said Legis. David Denenberg (D-Merrick), a frequent critic of the Mangano administration.

The issue of part-timers arose in March when Newsday reported that former Republican Assemb. Robert Barra, the full-time $129,000 Valley Stream village clerk, earned $33,586 as a part-time county golf course attendant 1 -- $10,000 more than a full-time attendant 1 whose pay had been frozen for three years.


Defending part-timers

Deputy County Executive Ed Ward defended the use of part-timers.

"In the last four years, the number of full-time county employees has dropped to the lowest level in the last 20 years. Part-timers and seasonal employees, because they receive no benefits, cost the taxpayers far less than full-time employees," Ward said.

Ward said most seasonal and part-time employees last year worked additional hours, "because everyone was called in to work after Hurricane Sandy."

Asked about some workers' political connections, Ward said: "What these workers do on their own time is strictly their own business, and the county does not question them on who their relatives are."

Ward said he was speaking on behalf of the employees who either could not be reached by Newsday or declined to comment.

Mangano has pared the county's full-time workforce as a budget-cutting measure since he took office in January 2010. The full-time head count dropped from 8,533 at the end of 2009 to 7,252 by the end of last year, according to budget documents.

In the same period, the number and cost of part-time and seasonal employees inched up, county comptroller records show. The county paid more than $26,559,000 to 2,093 part-timers and seasonal workers in 2013; in 2009, 1,950 part-time and seasonal workers were paid $23.6 million. About 1,000 of last year's part-time and seasonal employees worked in the parks department, earning a combined total of $9.5 million. The amount is higher than for any other department except police, which pays a large contingent of part-time school crossing guards.

After Newsday inquired about part-timers' pay, Chief Deputy County Executive Rob Walker emailed all department heads, warning them to hold all part-timers' hours to less than 39.75 hours in a two-week period. The CSEA contract says part-timers who work more than 20 hours a week are entitled to full-time benefits, including health insurance.

The Nassau Interim Finance Authority, which controls Nassau's finances, froze more than 8,000 full-time workers' wages in 2011 to help Mangano balance the budget. NIFA lifted the freeze in early May for police and CSEA members after their unions agreed to concessions in new contracts. County correction officers and appointees' salaries remain frozen, though the correction union has approved a new contract that is awaiting NIFA approval.


Retired officials worked

A review of the parks department shows several retired town and village officials worked for the county on a part-time basis.

Robert Dwyer, who collects an $83,515 state pension from his work in the Oyster Bay parks department, serves as a deputy parks commissioner, working part time. He earned $32,960 from the county last year.

Retired Hempstead Town deputy general services commissioner Charles Milone, the Seaford Republican executive leader, earned $30,000 as a part-time seasonal park worker last year, while collecting a $77,774 state pension.

Richard Leary, a retired former Oyster Bay Town parks maintenance supervisor and former president of the Hicksville Republican Committee, earned $27,587 last year as a county part-time golf course attendant 1. He also collected an $87,273 state pension.

Oceanside school board member Michael S. D'Ambrosio earned $48,480 as a $40-an-hour part-time park worker last year, though his voice-mail message identifies him as a special assistant to Mangano.


Relatives on payroll

Relatives of current and former county officials also appear on the part-time payroll.

Desiree Pennica, the daughter of longtime Mangano aide Doreen Pennica, earned $12,418 last year as a $15-an-hour part-time golf course attendant 1. Lindsey McKeever, the sister of Chief Deputy Rob Walker's former special assistant, Kristen DiCerbo, earned $37,400 as a seasonal park worker last year.

Amanda Laikin, the daughter of Mangano aide and former Newsday reporter Eden Laikin, earned $32,000 as a seasonal skating rink guard last year, although the county directory lists her as working for constituent affairs in the county executive building.

"No one should want any part of this, especially our overburdened taxpayers and neighbors," said Denenberg, who is running for State Senate in the 8th District. "It's intolerable and inexcusable."

Parks advocate Bruce Piel said the parks department now and in the past "has always been a dumping ground for politically connected people. It doesn't make it right. It really shouldn't be happening."

Several seasonal parks employees appear to have worked more than full-time hours last year.

One seasonal park worker who earns the county's "living wage" of $13.35 an hour was paid $45,352 last year, including $24,034 in overtime -- which means he put in an average 53.80 hours each week for 52 weeks last year. Another seasonal park worker collected $48,771, with $25,337 in overtime, which indicates he worked an average 58 hours each week for 52 weeks.

"Something doesn't make sense," Laricchiuta said. "Clearly they're working full-time hours. If they're seasonal, they're just supposed to work for a season. Anything more than that, we have to ask, are they really seasonal?"

Contacted by Newsday, a spokesman for Comptroller George Maragos said the office questioned the workers' hours and was satisfied they were accurate.

When asked about Barra in March, Valley Stream Mayor Ed Fare, a Republican, said he saw no conflict with Barra's parks job. Fare's daughter, Samantha, began working as a seasonal county park worker last October for $13.35 an hour, earning $2,352 last year.

She said she had started at Old Bethpage Village Restoration and the county moved her to Grant Park. "It was a coincidence that he [Barra] works there," she said. Her father said it wasn't unusual or a conflict for "a locally grown, Valley Stream woman" to get a part-time job with the county.

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